Wendy’s been spending a bit of time down at the River Market at New Westminster Quay, and with me not having been at all yet we decided to go for dinner at Wild Rice. I vaguely remembered having heard good things about Wild Rice restaurant, and I know it serves fairly healthy food, so it seemed like a good bet.
When we arrived it was quite busy and we were told there would be a roughly 20 minute wait for a table. We chose to sit at the bar inside and wait, which was kind of neat since they have an open kitchen.
The wait ended up being shorter than anticipated and we were soon seated. Wild Rice’s interior was bright and airy thanks to all the windows which provided us a nice view of the Fraser River. This is a contrast from the cozy ambiance of the mood-lit bar area.
As we scanned the menus I noticed they provide plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, which confirmed the health-consciousness I had heard about.
A humorous note before we get to the food: Wendy ordered some hot lemon water, which came nicely presented in a French press. However there was someone’s left over tea leaves in there which ended up floating at the bottom of her cup. Added flavour!
We decided to order three mains to share since we were fairly hungry:
Wild Rice – The Good
I’m white, so even though Wendy shuns it in the same manner as Egg Foo Yung or Chicken Chow Mein, you know I loves me some Kung Pao Chicken! Wild Rice’s Spicy Chicken Kung Po ($18) was damn near perfection. Al dente rice noodles, smokey grilled BC chicken, and lightly cooked fresh vegetables in a coconut and tamarind sauce. Topped with spiced double-cooked peanuts, this dish is also available in vegan format with tofu instead of chicken. Minus a couple of points for the odd piece of chicken breast that was too dry, and the Kung Po seemed overpriced by a few dollars, hence the “near” perfection of an otherwise perfect dish.
From dizzying highs to tragic lows, I have just as many negative things to say about the Green Curry with shrimp ($20) as I did positive for the Kung Po Chicken. What are some of the things that pop into your head when you think of Thai cuisine? Colourful? Exotic? Flavourful? Maybe spicy? How about bland and boring? Yup, Wild Rice’s green curry was just that.
The coconut flavour was much milder than the Spicy Chicken Kung Po, almost undetectable. There was no other flavour, not even salt. The smell of bamboo overwhelmed the dish, and the shrimp was dry and tough. The ratio of sauce to rice was also way too conservative. If I had to guess the ingredients in what little sauce there was, I would say water, coconut milk, and green food colouring, in that order.
The only positive thing I can say is that they used an interesting variety of vegetables. Aside from the overpowering bamboo shoots, there was baby corn, broccoli, taro and lotus root, pumpkin, scallions, pickled onion, and tofu puff. There may have been more, these are just the ones I remember. The Green Curry can also be made plain for $13, in which case it’s vegan and gluten-free.
…and The Meh
I chose the Soft Tacos ($15) because the wonton filling piqued my curiosity.
The 3-per-taco wonton had a chicken and pork filling and were crisply deep-fried. The tortilla was corn flour, and the wonton were wheat flour. Put the two together and that’s a bit much flour, which made things pretty dry since the wonton didn’t hold much—if any—juice. The filling was fairly tasty however, and I imagine it would have been more appealing in a taco format if it was crumbled up on its own.
The house made kimchi was impressive though. I appreciated the medium-hot spice range and kimchi lends itself well to tacos. The scallion verde aioli was creamy and refreshing and also worked in the taco context. The tacos were presented on a bed of fresh pea shoots which, again, was a welcome addition.
Overall an interesting idea, but in the end wonton in tacos just didn’t do it for me. And as with all the items here everything seemed a tad overpriced. We ordered what seemed to us like the deals of the Wild Rice menu, so we counted ourselves lucky but felt sorry for our neighbours when we noted the 3 vegetable spring rolls and 4 potstickers (also vegetable) they got for $20. Had that been us we would have definitely left more than a tad ticked off.
I’ll leave you with the beautiful view we captured just before we left Wild Rice restaurant and the New West Quay.